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SID community partner Racquet Up Detroit just installed two new squash courts to support their youth program expansion. Helping to recruit 40 new student athletes by Winter 2014 is RUD's new Mind-Body Coach and SID alumnus Rashard Haynesworth.
Rashard Haynesworth points his squash racquet toward a constellation of grey half moons spattered across the walls of Racquet Up Detroit’s (RUD) squash Court 1. As I stand with him on the red-taped maple floor, I can imagine where the hollow rubber ball bounced between players’ tightly woven racquet strings and the whitewashed drywall.
“Those marks tell a story,” Haynesworth says. “Wherever the ball travels, you see where it goes… the strategy behind it.”
While coaching 40 local middle and high school students in academics and fitness, program directors at RUD have strategized to bring their unique program to 40 more students at the nearby Schulze Academy and MacDowell schools.
Haynesworth can’t keep a smile off his face as he talks about the program expansion.
Tomorrow, September 14, 2013, marks the launch of RUD’s fourth year and a beginning of a 5th-grader recruitment program. By the end of the spring 2014, Executive Director Derek Aguirre hopes to have close to 70-80 student participants. To help with the expansion, Aguirre recently brought on two staff team members, including Haynesworth.
Some might say coming to RUD in July 2013 was like coming home for Haynesworth, who first worked with RUD as a Spring 2011 Semester in Detroit intern.
“Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for Semester in Detroit, I wouldn’t have heard of Racquet Up or gotten involved with youth development in the city,” Haynesworth says.
Haynesworth now works as RUD’s mind and body coach, mentoring students from local schools just five minutes away from the home where he grew up. He says a lot has changed in the two years since he’d last worked at the facility.
“When I interned here, a lot of the lights were out. Derek did a lot of work.”
Aguirre’s hard work led to the addition of two new squash courts at RUD’s home base in Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center (NWAC). He remodeled one of NWAC’s Racquet Ball courts to professional-grade squash specifications. Complete with a glass wall, the court is just like those RUD athletes play in during national tournaments.
“Having 80 kids try to play on three courts is impossible.” Haynesworth said of the court additions. “There wouldn’t have been a lot of court time for everyone to get better.”
I get to take a look at the new professional court from the second floor balcony that overlooks the squash facilities. Court 4—with it’s freshly lain floors and white walls—is a gem, and I don’t want to scuff it up with my rubber-soled boots.
As Haynesworth and I leave the courts for the Racquet Up office, the evidence of the staff’s hard work and progress line the halls. Carpet squares and work gloves sit outside of the weight room that was recently converted into “Court 0” as a sign of what’s accomplished, and what still needs to be done.
“This is the first step for a lot of things.” Haynesworth says about the expansion. “But it’s also a first step in figuring out where I want to be and what I want to be doing.”
For Racquet Up Detroit and Haynesworth, the coming year will be full of opportunities.
If you’re interested in being a part of the excitement at Racquet Up Detroit, you can support program expansion by visiting racquetup.org for volunteer and donation information.